“That which is apprehensible by thought with a rational account is the thing that is always unchangeably real; whereas that which is the object of belief together with unreasoning sensation is the thing that becomes and passes away, but never has real being.” (Plato’s Timaeus )
Language is used to further the civilisation project and deny or repress the body, the wild, the animal, both without and within. What irony to use words to speak to this. But this exemplifies the dilemma of kneeling to thought, the ‘word’, as the way of knowing. In doing so we only have the idea of the ‘physical’, the ‘wild’, the ‘animal’ as example. The actual (or the ‘real’ as hinted at by Lacan) is unknown, though possibly glimpsed by our senses, or that which is at the very periphery. It is ‘unknown’ because it is not ‘named’ therefore it remains part of the ‘shadow world’ as described by Plato. But, once it is named it then becomes an idea devoid of the actual, because its value is then embedded in the idea. The idea becomes the perfect Form on which the actual (or object) models itself. From Plato we continue with Forms (the perfect, reliable, and importantly ongoing) on which the imperfect (the chaotic, unreliable, and importantly mortal) world is modelled. In Plato’s vision, the objects of the ‘shadow world’ (where the ‘actual’ is situated) mimic the Forms. Thus the idea of ‘kangaroo’, for example, becomes more valuable (as it is perfect, stable, immortal) than the actual and hence we remove ourselves from them, and our relationship is ruptured. As
humans we primacy the idea over the actual which includes, though is not limited to, the physical landscape, and the various bodies within and without. The actual is this. We set ourselves at a distance from the unknown (the objects within the ‘shadow world’) and we do not even begin to see it, instead we see and live according to, the words that represent them. The words standin their stead and we unknowingly accept them as the actual when they are only a representation. Many centuries on from Plato how does this inform what we see happening to the non-human animal world in particular? In understanding this claim or placement of ‘thought over the actual’, we can then begin to understand the rupture that is our relationship with that which moves within our world and importantly the ‘animal’ as designated by us, and imagined by us.
Every winter, Carolyn Drew spends her nights trying to track down shooters to stop the carnage unleashed on kangaroos. During the day, she teaches those who have been disadvantaged by the system in programs which enable them access to
university. Carolyn has a Masters in Education in Adult Education, and is co-author of ‘The Harvest’ published in The Southerly, Journal of The English Association,
Australia. She lives with her family in Canberra, Australia.